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Longboat Key Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 8 years ago

My View: Key Club disputes IPOC's claims

by: Michael Welly

Why does the Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC) have to work so hard to try to make the Longboat Key Club redevelopment appear inappropriate? As clearly revealed in the results of our recent resident survey, IPOC’s self-interested agenda is to protect its own backyard at the expense of the rest of the community.

IPOC likes to use the term “massive” because it sounds scary. IPOC throws around estimates of traffic and gross square footage like it is an expert. I don’t know where they get their numbers, but they are inaccurate and misleading.

IPOC would have you believe that all our proposed buildings will occupy 1.2 million square feet laid out across the ground. In reality, all of our proposed buildings will cover 260,000 gross square feet. But here’s the kicker: Most of this space — 75% of the 260,000 square feet to be exact — is already occupied by our existing building footprints and tennis facilities. Our intent is to modernize and replace these existing buildings with new buildings, such as an updated golf clubhouse with a restaurant; a state-of-the-art wellness center with an enhanced spa, fitness center and a rooftop lap pool; a five-star hotel with a new restaurant and pool overlooking New Pass; two three-story townhomes; and two condominium residence buildings.

It is also important to note that our current proposal is significantly scaled down from the original plans, as a result of community input — so much so that L’Ambiance, where the majority of IPOC supporters live, will still be more than 30 feet taller than our proposed golf course condominium residences. Further, our condos will be more than 900 feet away from our closest neighbor. Compare that to the fewer than 100 feet currently between L’Ambiance and Inn on the Beach’s Building Four, and then we can begin to have an honest discussion in regard to IPOC’s false assertions about the obstruction of views.

And, of course we have the meeting center, which is absolutely necessary to support the hotel. The proposed ballroom will be smaller than the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom and even the main dining room of the newly renovated Sarasota Yacht Club. Both regularly host large groups, and yet we won’t be as big as them. Let’s also put IPOC’s contentions about us hosting a group of 700 in proper context — this constitutes a special function (not a regular occurrence) and represents an average of 350 cars — a traffic increase we have handled efficiently and without incident in the past. Why doesn’t IPOC share these comparisons with you?

We all agree that Longboat Key is at a tipping point — our town government is facing a significant budget shortfall, island businesses are closing and our historical tourism base is threatened by declining facilities. Our island needs a long-term economic boost that benefits you, other residents and businesses year-round. To assert that tourism is unimportant to this island’s future is simply ridiculous.

It’s no secret that the club needs a major refresh, either. We are not asking for town funds or tax breaks, nor are we assessing our members. Instead, we are prepared to raise $400 million in private financing that the club and island desperately need. This investment will enhance your lifestyle and increase property values by creating demand for property on Longboat.

A professional, licensed engineer has determined that traffic volume will increase during the peak hour by only one vehicle per minute in each direction on any given segment of the road. A professional traffic analysis does not speak in terms of trips per day — the raw data is always broken down into the peak hour for meaningful analysis. This traffic study also shows that all roadway facilities function within town standards at build out. Most importantly, the town has hired its own independent consultant to evaluate this study.

The reality is that there are many aspects of this redevelopment that will benefit you as a property owner.

This redevelopment will increase property values, which will improve the tax base for the town and preserve the services we all have come to appreciate, such as firefighter, law enforcement and emergency services.  More visitors during the slower summer season will increase foot traffic into our restaurants and retailers, allowing our local businesses to stay open year-round. And, of course, this includes St Armand’s, one of Longboat’s most important amenities. The fact that our redevelopment will also help increase the number of visitors to the Circle is a good thing.

To our neighbors behind the gates — IPOC is once again asking you for more money, in addition to what it has managed to collect from your condominium associations. Did you consent to the diversion of funds that were originally assessed for repairs and landscaping to a misguided legal fund? Won’t you be assessed again for those improvements that were not made, while you are now being asked to contribute more money to this personal — and maybe even political — crusade? Is that fair, or even legal?

The club’s renovation is the most important long-term issue our community faces, and I strongly encourage everyone in town to take an active role in the dialogue. You have a right to evaluate our proposal with all the facts in hand and to make up your own mind, instead of having to evaluate it through IPOC’s misleading and inaccurate portrayals. The town’s final decision on our proposal and its impact on all of our futures are far too big to make without learning the truth about all the issues in play.  Had it not been for calm, rational minds, the Ringling Bridge would not exist, there would not be a Publix on the island and the Hollywood 20 would not be providing us with enjoyable entertainment. And, since when does the basic premise of property rights mean that one group of people is allowed to obtain its dream, only to shut the door on any future generations wishing to do the same?

In regard to the recent challenge filed by the Longboat Key Association — this appeal is without merit and only results in more expenses for the town, Longboat Key residents and the club. The town staff has already analyzed our application twice and deemed it complete. Now the town will be forced to waste precious time and resources to evaluate yet another frivolous challenge. Although the Association’s true motives for filing the appeal — and its authority to do so — remain to be determined, the club looks forward to a scheduled hearing with the Zoning Board of Adjustment in September, and the start of Planning and Zoning Board public hearings in October.

I have experienced first-hand a groundswell of support, and nothing pleases me more than when town residents have asked questions and learned the truth about our project. I hope you will take an active role in learning about it, and I am overwhelmingly confident that the more you know, the more ardently you will support the project. We would love to add your name to our growing list of Longboat Key residents in support of a positive future for our community. E-mail us at [email protected].

Michael Welly
is the general manager of the Longboat Key Club and Resort.

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